Macedonia marks nine years since the Good Friday massacre, in which three ethnic Albanian Islamists killed four Macedonian boys and one man in an apparent attempt to start another civil war. Filip Slavkovski (18), Kire Trickovski (20), Cvetanco Acevski (18), Aleksandar Nakevski (18) and Borce Stefkovski (45) were gunned down near the Smilkovsko pond, just north of Skopje.
The attackers, brothers Afrim and Agim Ismailovic and Halil Demiri, fled the scene and soon after Afrim Ismailovic and Demiri fled to Kosovo. Only Agim Ismailovic and several accomplices were arrested and put to trial, and even they were released from prison in 2017, when Zoran Zaev became Prime Minister.
Zaev spread conspiracy theories about the killings during his 2015 Colored Revolution campaign, insisting that innocent people have been framed for the murders and that he has wiretaps to prove it. This helped him become Prime Minister as it drew Albanian support toward his SDSM party and poisoned chances that VMRO-DPMNE forms a coalition with ethnic Albanian parties. After becoming Prime Minister, the judiciary, now under Zaev’s control, had the trial start over and Agim Ismailovic and the accomplices were released from prison, only to have Zaev admit, years later, that he has no new evidence to offer in the case. The court recently confirmed the life sentences for the three killers and some of the accomplices, which prompted unruly protests from Albanian organizations.